Cycling and Birding the Millennium Trail, Prince Edward County
After extensive hiking through the Dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park a day earlier, Bob and I chose to give our feet a rest and go cycling. A planned excursion on the Millennium Trail got off to a slow start because we had difficulty locating our preferred trailhead.
Nevertheless, by 10:30 a.m., Bob pulled our car into the parking lot near Hillier just off Station Road. It was very well appointed with a wooden kiosk, picnic table, bicycle parking rack, repair tools, washroom, and information panels.
The temperature was mounting, so we wasted no time packing our panniers and getting underway.
The Millennium Trail is a 46-kilometre linear park throughout Prince Edward County. Like so many biking trails that we use, it exists on the abandoned Canadian National Railway right-of-way so is essentially flat with only slight grades.
Being avid birders, we didn’t get far before a Downy Woodpecker caught our eye.
Lush vegetation bordered the rail trail for the first 4.5 kilometres. The shade of deciduous trees and thick bushes provided lots of cover for the birds keeping them out of sight as the heat intensified.
When a large stretch of marshland came into view, we knew we were in for some possible bird activity.
The marsh seemed to cover quite an extensive area.
it was time to hop off our bikes and grab our binoculars.
Wheeling overhead were a number of Common Terns.
Making speedy passes over the water were several Black Terns grabbing fish on the go.
Bob and I had split up in order to make observations over a larger area of the marsh.
Soon we moved along a little further drawn by the high-pitched calls of more birds.
That’s when we discovered that we had arrived at Consecon Lake. The rail trail crosses the water across a narrow strip of land.
We soon found the source of the bird calls. Cedar Waxwings populated a Juniper Tree at the shore looking in earnest for any berries that might have been missed another time.
Eastern Kingbirds were aplenty, adults kept busy feeding their fledglings.
The abundance of dragonflies such as this Hallowe’en Pennant provided an ample supply of potential prey.
Even the Black Terns had luck catching some of them.
It wasn’t long before some other cyclists came along. In fact, we also saw motorized bikes and walkers enjoying the multi-use trail.
Bob and I lingered by the water for about 40 minutes observing the goings-on. There was much to keep us occupied.
A huge flock of European Starlings erupted out of the trees along the western shore.
And a lone Pied-billed Grebe ducked quietly beneath the waves in pursuit of a fish.
Finally, we decided that it was time to move on. Passing through the beautiful rural landscape, we had not a care in the world. Another 10 kilometres put us at Kilometre Zero of the Millennium Trail near Carrying Place.
On the return leg towards Consecon Lake, we took a break at the side of the trail for a picnic lunch. Before long, we were right back at the bridge overlooking the marsh. Two Great Egrets came gliding in over the dense mass of waterlilies bringing our daily sightings up by one.
A familiar bird call alerted us to a Gray Catbird skulking in the undergrowth.
Underway again, Bob and I made good progress. At one point, the Millennium Trail crosses a local road, but plenty of signage kept us on the right track.
Requiring a brief stop for a snack and drink of water, I pulled up on another bridge that crosses a creek.
Peering over the railing at the water below, at first I didn’t notice this snake skin suspended among the cross beams of the bridge.
I joked that, had it been a bear, it could’ve bitten me before I noticed its presence.
I retrieved the shed skin for a closer look. Given the pattern on the dorsal surface, I’m guessing that it had belonged to an Eastern Gartersnake.
It was interesting to look at the enlarged scales on the belly of the snake’s skin. They are called ventral scales and are elongated compared to the dorsal scales along the upper side of a snake’s body.
Another study of the thin stream below the bridge revealed a Green Frog laying low in the mud along its bank. A sign of a healthy habitat, this frog was lucky to escape the Gartersnake that shares the area.
By the time Bob and I landed back at the parking lot, we had clocked 30 kilometres on the Millennium Trail. We were tired and ready for a hearty dinner. A sumptuous meal was had at Lake on the Mountain, our first restaurant meal since the start of the pandemic in 2020. That was a real treat!
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean